Grieving families of Covid victims have accused Boris Johnson of “repeating past mistakes”, putting us at the Indian variant’s mercy.
They spoke out amid fears his failure to restrict travel from India in early April has allowed the mutant to take seed.
On the eve of restrictions further easing on Monday, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice warned ministers were not learning lessons – more than a year into the pandemic.
The group, which represents 4,000 families, blasted: “The Government has once again been indecisive on closing our borders – repeating previous mistakes which cost lives.
"After the success of the vaccine rollout, fears the Indian variant might mean cases rising substantially are harrowing for bereaved families.”
On Friday, the Government admitted the mutant variant could threaten the planned June 21 end to restrictions.
India was put on the travel red list on April 23 – despite reports of a fast-spreading strain and neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh being added on April 9.
It has been claimed the PM dithered over adding India to the list in April.
Some 122 cases of the variant entered the UK from India before it was added to the hotel quarantine list – requiring a ten-day isolation.
Labour ’s Angela Rayner said the delay is looking “more reckless, misguided and dangerous by the hour.”
Mr Johnson sought to reassure the public at a briefing on Friday, saying there is “no evidence” current vaccines will not be effective against the new strain.
There he was also accused of acting too late – a charge levelled against him at the start of the pandemic, and again in autumn.
Jo Goodman, co-founder of the Covid justice group, called for the Tories to bring forward a public inquiry they intend to kick back to next year.
Jo, who lost her father Stuart to Covid, said: “The only way the Government is going to overcome the virus is through learning the right lessons and this is why the statutory inquiry can’t wait.”
Health Minister Edward Argar tonight defended adding India to the red list later than Pakistan and Bangladesh.
He said Britain has the right border controls “to minimise the risk of not just this variant but other variants in future”.
A Government spokesperson said: “We have some of the toughest border measures in the world.
"We took precautionary action to ban travel from India on 23rd April, six days before this variant was put under investigation and two weeks before it was labelled as of concern.
"We have since sped up our vaccination programme and put in enhanced local support to curb transmission.
"Prior to India being placed on the red list in April anyone coming to the UK had to test negative and quarantine for 10 days."
Vaccine arms race
Britain stepped up its vaccine race to beat the Indian Covid variant with the announcement second doses of vaccines will be accelerated for the over-50s and the clinically vulnerable across the country.
Instead they will be given eight weeks after the first dose instead of the current 12 weeks.
The race to beat the Indian variant comes after it emerged most of the patients hospitalised with the virus in Bolton, which has the highest rates of the Indian variant in the country, are eligible for the jab but have not had it.
Huge queues formed outside pop-up jab centres in the Greater Manchester town with anyone eligible to receive a dose urged to do so.
Dr Francis Andrews, medical director at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The increase in admissions is seen across the age range from 35-65. The majority of patients have not received a vaccination dose, but many would have been eligible.”
Bolton has been severely hit by the Indian Covid variant, which now makes up the majority of it’s new cases.
The area’s infection rate is the highest in the country with 192 cases per 100,000 people as of yesterday.
Meanwhile, Scottish National Party health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford warned you ‘cannot out-vaccinate the variant’ due to the time taken to build immunity once someone gets the jab.
Second doses of vaccines will be accelerated for the over-50s and the clinically vulnerable across the country, so they are given eight weeks after the first dose instead of the current 12 weeks.
Meanwhile in East London surge testing to be deployed in Hackney and Shoreditch where there has been an outbreak of the Indian and South African variants.
Everyone over the age of 16 who lives or works in targeted areas within Shoreditch and Dalston should take a COVID-19 PCR test.
But the spread of the Indian variant isn’t expected to derail the roadmap out of lockdown just yet.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said yesterday: “The crucial road map date for theatres, music venues and sports has always been step 4.
“So I understand this is an anxious time as we assess the situation over the next couple of weeks.
“We continue to make good progress with the vaccine rollout and with testing the safe return of audiences through the Events Research Programme, but must accept we enter a period of heightened vigilance with the new fast-moving variant.
“We will keep engaging with, and updating, organisations to allow everyone to plan their full reopening.”
Today around 21,000 fans flocked to Wembley for the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Leicester City.
It was the biggest crowd at a live event in the UK since the first lockdown last year led to matches being played behind closed doors.
The Duke of Cambridge joined 6,250 supporters of each team plus local residents, key workers and FA guests for the showpiece which Leicester won 1-0.
Lucy supporters were required to return a negative lateral flow Covid-19 test before travelling to the stadium.
Next week, the final two rounds of Premier League matches will be played in front of up to 10,000 fans